Since its inception over three decades ago (1974), the World Environment Day is globally celebrated every year June 5th. It offers an opportunity to broaden the foundation for enlightened opinions and responsible conduct by communities, individuals, and enterprises in enhancing and preserving the environment. Each year, this important event is organized around a specific theme to draw attention to some of the pressing environmental problems.
For healthy living, our environment plays an integral role. It provides us with food, air, water, and more. It is correctly asserted that the primary difference between humans and animals is that animals adapt themselves for the environment, but human beings change the environment for their benefits. For instance, humans clear vegetation for agricultural activities and settlements, emit poisonous gases to the atmosphere during manufacturing processes, and other activities that cause substantial harm to the environment.
The World Environment Day is a major yearly event for affirmative environmental action. You can’t stop breathing. However, you can do something to enhance the quality of the air you breathe.
World Environment Day 2019 Theme
The theme for the World Environment Day 2019 is ‘Beat Air Pollution.’ It is a call for action to combat the worldwide crisis. The topic invites people from all walks of life to consider how they can alter their everyday lives to minimize air pollution and thwart its growing contribution to global warming and its impact on health.
Air pollution explained
According to National Geographic, air pollution is a mix of different particles that can hit harmful concentrations both indoors and outdoors. Its impact can range from higher risks of health issues such as respiratory diseases to complex problems such as the increase in global temperature. Smoke, methane, soot, mold, carbon dioxide, and pollen are some of the common air pollutants. Here are the major global issues caused by air pollution.
1. A worldwide health hazard
Poor air quality causes about 7 million deaths annually. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 4 million of these deaths occur in the Asia-Pacific region and other low- and middle-income countries. Indoor smoke is still a growing health threat to more than 3 billion people who heat their home and cook by burning coal, kerosene, and biomass.
Air pollution has also been linked to a high risk of heart disease, respiratory diseases, cancer, and stroke. The American Lung Association estimates that close 134 million people in the U.S (more than 40% of the population) are a higher risk of diseases and premature death because of air pollution.
Though the health impact of air pollution emerges from long-term exposure, there are short-term effects such as eye irritation, dizziness, headache, sneezing, and coughing. Particulate matter that is smaller than 10 micrometer (PM10 or PM2.5) pose a higher health risk as they can be breathed deep into the respiratory system and probably cross into the bloodstream.
2. Crop damage
Scientists assert that ground-level ozone is produced by various chemical reactions between poisonous gases and other air pollutants in the presence of light. It reduces crop growth and overall agricultural productivity. Two of the global staple crops, soybean and wheat, are sensitive to the impacts of ozone. Research suggests that ozone pollution accounts for over $11 billion worth of overall crop damage annually.
3. Environmental impact
A larger number of living things emit CO2 when they breathe. However, this gas is majorly considered to be an air pollutant when associated with planes, power plants, vehicles, and other human activities. This is because carbon dioxide is a natural greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere, resulting in increased global temperature. For more than 150 years, humans have been pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and raised its concentration to a higher level than it has been for millions of years.
Sulphur dioxide is another green gas that contributes to global warming and climate change. It is a component of smog. It reacts with rainwater and other compounds in the atmosphere to form acid rain.
What can be done?
Nations around the globe are tackling different forms of air pollution. For instance, China is making significant strides when it comes to cleaning up smog-choked skies from decades of industrial expansion by cancelling coal-fired power plants. Besides, California (in the United States) has been leading in the process of setting emission standards geared towards improving air quality, particularly in places like the popular hazy Los Angeles.
The World Environment Day 2019 urges industries, governments, individuals, and communities to work together in the process of exploring renewable energy and greener technologies. This will result in significant improvement in the over the quality of air in cities and other regions across the globe.
The Government of China has shown a commendable commitment to organizing this year’s world environment event in multiple cities. Hangzhou, in the great province of Zhejiang, will host the main celebrations.
The Great Ice Age: Palaeoecologic and Natural Climatic Changes Following It
It is natural for us to forget how variable the earth’s climate has been centuries ago, across different geological time frames. The main reason behind it is the extent of such variability is beyond our imagination. Can you picture the earth as a big ball of ice, from the North Pole to the South Pole? No matter how difficult it is to imagine the earth shrouded in ice entirely, the truth is the oldest and longest period of glaciations existed for three hundred million years. Yes, we are talking about the Great Ice Age.
What is an Ice Age?
We can define an Ice Age as a prolonged period of decrease in the Earth’s temperature, resulting in the expansion of ice sheets as well as alpine glaciers in polar regions. An ice age is characterized by the presence of huge sheets of ice or glaciers in the Southern Hemisphere and the Northern Hemisphere and extremely cold climate throughout the year. There are remains of glaciers from the previous ice age in places like Antarctica and Greenland.
What gives birth to an ice age?
An ice age is not something that happens overnight. These ages have shaped the geography and history, but what factors result in the formation of one such age?
If in the northern hemisphere, temperatures in summer remain below the freezing point for thousands of years, an ice age begins. The earth’s orbit and tilt affect which areas get minimum sun rays.
The previous ice age:
The Earth has witnessed at least five ages with glaciers covering significant portions of the planet over a period of 4.6 billion years. The Pleistocene Epoch started nearly 2.6 million years from now and has ended 11,700 years ago. Humans evolved in the Pleistocene Epoch and inhabited almost all regions of the planet towards the end of it. The stage that followed it is currently known as the Holocene Epoch.
How was the climate during the Great Ice Age?
The climate used to be drier and colder during the Great Ice Age. Since most areas were covered with enormous sheets of ice, the rainfall was at least fifty percent less than current times. There were summers and winters, but the cooler summers failed to melt the ice. The average temperature of the Earth was 12 degrees approximately, not enough to melt snow in northern regions. As the snow piled up on the snow, glaciers formed.
Life on earth in the Ice Age
Even if human beings evolved, several species of large mammals became extinct due to the harsh climate of the Ice Age. One of the primary sources of information about the existence of life during this period in Los Angeles’ La Brea Tar Pits. Remains of plant life, insects, animals, and human skeletons are preserved here. Some of the animals inhabiting the Earth at that time were woolly mammoths, giant ground sloths, saber-toothed cats, and mastodons. Other mammals such as macrauchenia, tenrecs, and moonrats thrived in this era.
The latest ice age did not witness any dinosaur as they became effaced from the face of the planet millions of years before that. Crocodiles, turtles, lizards, pythons, and various other reptiles could be found. Birds also flourished, including geese, eagles, hawks, and ducks.
When it comes to vegetation, there was limited vegetation in most areas. Conifers, cypress, yews, oaks, and beeches were among the plants that survived the cold weather conditions. Prairie grasses and flowering plants such as rose, lily, and orchid could be spotted on the ground.
Approximately 13,000 years from now, seventy-five percent of the large animals of the Ice Age died out. Scientists have tried to understand for years the causes of such mass extinction. Two big reasons are vast climate change and overhunting by humans. Natural disasters in selective portions have also been responsible for wiping out large populations of animals.
Can we experience an ice age again? After learning about the Great Ice Age, if you are wondering whether we are heading into another ice age, we’ll answer your question. Scientists have pointed out that there might be another ice age in the future. However, global warming is instrumental in delaying the process. So, researchers have predicted that humans might start experiencing another ice age after at least 100,000 years.
Environmental Justice: Definition, Principles, And Importance In Today’s World
At the beginning of the 1980s in the United States of America, environmental justice became popular as a concept. It emerged as a social movement to enable the fair allocation of environmental burdens and environmental benefits.
What do we understand by the term “environmental justice”?
We can define environmental justice as meaningful involvement and fair treatment of all human beings irrespective of their color, race, income, or national origin in matters of implementation, development, and application of environmental laws, policies, and regulations. So, it stresses the equitable distribution of benefits and environmental risks, as well as rights to individuals and communities to flourish and function in society.
Among groups most affected by environmental injustice are the racial minority and the high-poverty groups. Poor people report at least 20 percent of health problems due to industrial impure air releases.
A wide range of environmental justice matters has affected African-Americans. Cancer Alley is one infamous example. The place has offices of 125 companies producing petrochemical products, impacting the lives of residents.
Indigenous groups have suffered a lot due to environmental inequality. Native Americans have been subject to abuses because of mining activities for extracting uranium in Western America.
Environmental justice and its key principles:
- Environmental Justice promotes the holiness of Mother Earth, interdependence and coexistence of all life forms, ecological unity and freedom from environmental destruction.
- Environmental justice opines that public policies should be framed free from bias or discrimination of any kind, offering justice and respect to all humans.
- Environmental justice also affirms political, cultural, economic, and environmental rights to all. Environmental Justice gives the right to all communities to take part in decision making, planning, enforcement, implementation, and evaluation as equal partners.
- It demands universal protection against perils like nuclear testing, extraction, disposal, and production of hazardous or toxic elements as all have the inborn claim to clean land, food, air, and water.
- Environmental justice is there to safeguard the rights of victims who have been subjected to environmental lawlessness. Such people are eligible for receiving quality treatment and full compensation.
- Environmental justice points out the necessity of educating existing and future generations in ecological and social matters.
- It clearly states that all workers should get a healthy and safe work environment and nobody can be forced to select unemployment or unsafe livelihood.
- It also prohibits military occupation, exploitation, and repression of peoples, cultures, lands, and other forms of life on Earth.
- Last, but not the least, environmental justice also requests us, the individuals, to make sensible choices when it comes to consumption of Mother Earth’s resources and produces less waste. We should make healthy lifestyle choices for the sake of future generations and the healing of the natural world.
Why do we need environmental justice?
- Our relationship with the environment- It defines the relationship of human beings with the environment. Empowerment makes us realize that preserving and protecting the environment is mandatory for protecting humans and other life forms.
- Sustainability- It is only through environmental justice that we can comprehend sustainability. Sustainability tells us that how to utilize renewable resources and reduce our dependence on non-renewable sources of energy.
- Conservation of resources- It also highlights the significance of fair usage and conservation of natural resources. Unfair distribution can lead to acute scarcity of resources in several areas.
- Fair distribution- It also increases awareness about the fair distribution of the resources of the planet. Justice applies whenever one group has more resources as opposed to another, also when one person attempts to take resources from the environment of another person.
- Strengthens environmental policies- Another positive aspect of environmental justice is that it reinforces environmental policies, regulations, and laws. Justice is of two types, namely, procedural justice and consequential justice. Environmental justice’s principles give strength to laws by advocating equal use of resources for all.
Environmental justice is of supreme importance in its struggle for maintenance and improvement of a healthy and clean environment for all, and especially for the weaker sections of the society who have been surviving closest to pollution sources. The Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989, 1972’s Pittston coal incident, and case against Chevron Refining in 1993 are notable instances from the past of environmental justice applied for the welfare of wronged citizens.
Canadian Environmental Policy: Workings And Impacts
Each government has its own way of dealing with things. However, almost all the governments of Canada invested equally in order to maintain the environmental harmony intact and keep the rich biodiversity of Canada alive. In order to deal with the serious concerns of climate change and maintain the air and water clean, Canada has taken aid from many global partnerships. Canadian Environmental Policy works on the basis of those contracts and deals.
Environmental Crisis of Canada:
There are various issues related to the environment that Canada is facing-
- Canada’s one of the biggest sources of income is the Oil and Gas industry. However, it contributes a lot to the harmful greenhouse gas emissions as well.
- The air in the cities is of really poor quality.
- There is plenty of fresh water available in Canada. However, the constant usage of that water has started ruining the biodiversity altogether.
All these problems have made Canada face the crisis of climate change more strongly than ever. That is why; the workings of Canadian Environmental Policy have become more than necessary with time.
There are many international agreements that have helped the Canadian government form the structure of Canadian Environmental Policy.
- UN Framework Convention on Climate Change:
UNFCC was formed in order to address the issues related to climate change. There are almost 195 parties involved in this treaty. Canada’s contribution here is to provide data related to greenhouse gas emissions. Canada also plays the part in properly by taking proper steps to reduce gas emission. It also helps other countries from the third world to fight climate change with the aid of resources.
- Paris Climate Agreement:
195 nations signed the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 with the aim of keeping the issue of global warming under control. The goal was to limit the increase of temperature within 1.5 degrees Celsius from the earlier 2 degrees Celsius on a yearly basis.
- Climate and Clean Air Coalition:
This partnership was made between the government, the public, and the private sectors. The aim of this partnership is to replace the short-lived climate pollutants or better known as SLCP. These pollutants are extremely harmful to the health of the planet as they belong to the group of greenhouse gasses. Not only that, but they are also responsible for global warming and poor quality of air as well.
- Global Methane Initiative:
This international association seeks to reduce methane pollution. Another aim is to use methane as a source of energy. GMI takes special notice of all the production and consumption systems of oil and gas, agriculture, sewage system of the municipality, etc.
Apart from international partnerships, the Canadian government has taken several steps on its own as well.
- Clean Air and Climate Change Act:
This act is actually an amendment to the Environment Protection Act. According to this act, greenhouse gasses are a threat to both the environment and the health of human beings.
- Energy Efficiency Act:
The Energy Efficiency Act helps the government to regulate the import and export of products that consume energy. According to this Act, any product that consumes energy must be appropriate according to Canadian rules in order to get into Canada. Another aim of this Act is to use alternative sources of energy more and more.
- Regulatory Framework for Air Emissions:
The aim here is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants responsible for corrupting the air quality. The Industrial sector, transportation, consumer products, indoor air quality- these are the main four aspects for which this framework is dedicated to.
Canadian Environmental Protection Act:
This Act was established in 1999. This Act was immensely important for it made the government more empowered to use its full potential for protecting the health of both the environment and human beings. Canadian Environmental Protection Act established a proper standard for protecting the environment.
Apart from these, there are several other acts in work as well- The National Energy Board Act, Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, Environmental Assessment Act, Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, and many more.
All these acts work together to create a proper environmental policy and help Canada deal with climate change issues and other problems associated with it.
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